Jeremy Corbyn: Boris Johnson has egg on his face over 'Russian nerve agent' claims
Jeremy Corbyn today said Boris Johnson had “egg on his face”, after the Foreign Secretary was left humiliated over comments he made about the Salisbury nerve agent attack.
The Labour leader said Mr Johnson “completely exceeded the information he had been given” about the origin of the Novichok nerve agent which left ex-spy Sergei Skripal fighting for his life.
The Foreign Secretary said in an interview with German TV that an official at Porton Down was certain the deadly poison had come from Moscow.
But Gary Aitkenhead, boss of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, yesterday said it was not his job to identify where the nerve agent came from - only what it was.
Mr Corbyn seized on the embarrassing gaffe and said Mr Johnson had “questions to answer” after the Government pointed the finger directly at the Kremlin over the attack.
“Boris Johnson seems to have completely exceeded the information that he had been given and told the world in categorical terms what he believed had happened,” Mr Corbyn said today.
“And it’s not backed up by the evidence he claimed to have got from Porton Down in the first place.”
He added: “Where does that leave the Foreign Secretary? Egg on his face for the statement he made on German television.”
But Security Minister Ben Wallace argued the Government had not issued contradictory statements, and noted that the accusation of Moscow was based on a “clutch” of intelligence.
Speaking to Radio 4 this afternoon, he added: “Porton Down will be able to tell you that there are very, very, very few people in the world who can develop - first of all, who did design Novichok.
“That was the Russians, who have developed and stockpiled it. In fact, the cast of that is reduced to one.”
Meanwhile, the Foreign Office was forced to delete a tweet also saying Porton Down had confirmed the Novichok had come from Russia.
A Foreign Office spokesperson explained: "An HMA Moscow briefing on 22 March was tweeted in real time to explain what happened in Salisbury to as wide an audience as possible.
But Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott mocked: “FCO tweet deleted... Porton Down do not say 'produced in Russia'. Assume Foreign Secretary wishes his interview with same claims could also be deleted.”
Meanwhile, the EU doubled down its declaration that Russia was probably behind the attack at a meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
"Today we confirm once again this position and reiterate our solidarity with the people and government of the United Kingdom and those fighting for their lives after the attack," the nations said in a statement.
"We have full confidence in the UK investigation and laud [the] UK’s collaboration with the OPCW technical secretariat, in full compliance with the convention."